51. Instruction From the Department of State to the Embassy in Poland1



  • American Relations with Poland

Reference is made to Embassy despatch No. 238 of January 10, 1956,2 and to previous Embassy despatches and telegrams setting forth the views and recommendations of the Embassy, as well as those of the British Ambassador, with respect to our present relations with Poland and inviting the Department’s comments and guidance.

The Embassy’s views as reported in despatches 76 of September 12, 19553 and 238 of January 10, 1956, and cogently expressed to Sir Andrew Noble on December 30, 1955,4 correspond in general to the Department’s position except as qualified by the following comments.

It is the Department’s present belief that until or unless some basic and drastic change occurs, either in the nature of Soviet policies or in the power relationship between the Free World and the Soviet Bloc, Poland will continue to be ruled by men whose decisions are based primarily on their understanding and interpretation of the desires and intentions of the Kremlin. The Department views such manifestations of “relaxation” as the reorganization of the Polish security police, the recent “thaw” in Polish literature, and the Nowe Drogi [Page 132] reference to a Polish road to Socialism as significant and noteworthy changes in Communist tactics in Poland, but not as evidence of the emergence of an independent “Polish policy”, as that term is usually understood. Possibly these recent developments cannot be explained solely as window dressing attributable to: 1) Moscow’s desire for relaxation of international tension following Stalin’s death and in view of growing Western unity against Communist aggression; 2) the reconciliation with Tito and the Belgrade communiqué of last June; and 3) the President’s and the Secretary’s clear statements at Geneva that the satellites would be watched as a barometer of Soviet intentions. Nevertheless the Department has seen no proof of any fundamental relaxation in the real bases of Soviet power in Poland, namely Soviet Party, police and military controls, plus the overwhelming and encircling strength of the USSR.

Thus, even making allowances for the many reservations and qualifications with which the British Ambassador has supported his analysis of present Soviet-Polish relations, the Department cannot agree with his basic thesis that a definite Polish policy independent of Moscow is now emerging.

As indicated above, there are good reasons for both Moscow and Warsaw to encourage the Free World in various ways to hope and believe that Polish foreign and domestic policies are not controlled by Moscow and that the Polish Communists are pursuing a Polish policy of gradual but basic liberalization. Ambassador Winiewiez, for one, has long represented the Polish Government in exactly this light with great tact and personal charm. Occasionally these tactics bear fruit even with intelligent observers, as apparently occurred in the case of Hugh Delargy’s judgment and interpretation of the activities and motives of Boleslaw Piasecki (reference despatch 173 of November 22, 1955).5 The British Ambassador’s opinions and recommendations, on the other hand, may have arisen not so much from a real misunderstanding of the situation in Poland as from a hope of finding something a little more satisfying than simple unqualified and “unconstructive” opposition to the Soviet and Polish Communist authorities.

However, the Department is by no means in agreement with the argument that there is no alternative between accepting present Polish policy as independent or semi-independent and, on the other hand, abandoning all attempts at flexibility and maneuver and simply dismissing the Poles “as permanent vassals of the Kremlin and therefore not worth much attention” (reference paragraph 7 of the enclosure to [Page 133] despatch 238 of January 10, 1956). The Department feels with Sir Andrew that the overwhelming majority of Poles are still anti-Communist and deserving and potentially very useful allies of the Free World (although continued Communist rule may change this situation more rapidly than the Ambassador now foresees). Moreover, not only is Poland the Soviet Union’s most important East European satellite, politically and strategically, but it is also clear that American policy towards the Warsaw regime is closely linked to our relations with the USSR and can affect and influence these relations in many ways. For exactly this reason it is essential that the shadow of the recent “thaw” in Poland not be accepted as the substance of a genuine Soviet withdrawal.

The Department has stated repeatedly that it is not reconciled to the continued enslavement of Poland and other Eastern European countries by the USSR and strenuous efforts are being made, and will be continued, to encourage as well as to inform the Polish people despite the artificial barriers imposed by Moscow. Developments in Poland will be followed and studied as closely and objectively as possible and consolidation and extension of Communist power and prestige in that country will be opposed within the limits, and by the methods, prescribed by Soviet-Free World relations. Policy will be flexible but realistically based on the main course of Communist performance and on the essentials of Communist power rather than on its more superficial aspects or on the hope of luring the present Polish Communist leaders away from Moscow by concessions or “friendship”. The Department will be guided by the conviction that a firm and realistic policy vis-à-vis Soviet rule in the satellites will eventually yield more results than attempts at appeasement or cooperation with Polish Communists.

Furthermore, the Department believes that the situation in Poland is by no means frozen and that it would be a mistake to adopt frozen attitudes which failed to take cognizance of potential fluidity and any incipient signs and trends of development favorable to the United States. It is a firm postulate of United States foreign policy, confirmed at the highest level of this Government, to seek to promote evolutionary changes in the policies and conduct of the Soviet and satellite regimes which will be in United States interest. In so doing, it will of course be desirable to influence these regimes toward the choice of those alternative lines of action which, while in their national interests, do not conflict with those of the United States. With respect to Poland this means among other things that we should be ready to encourage and foster any bona fide tendencies toward independence and national freedom from Moscow which may reveal themselves in Party and official circles. As indicated above, we do not intend to accept, or make concessions to, a sham independence nor do we intend to make [Page 134] concessions in the hope that the Warsaw regime might some day seek independence from Moscow. But were there any bona fide signs of a favorable development, we should of course shape our actions in cognizance thereof.

Also we believe that it would even be appropriate to take suitable actions in hope of stimulating an independent Polish policy, insofar as such actions did not represent concessions on our part nor serve to enhance the prestige of the existing regime. We believe that the personal relations of our diplomatic representatives with Polish officials may have a certain flexibility as a consequence of this consideration.

Thus, although the Department does not believe that the USSR is relinquishing any basic controls in Poland, or is planning to do so in the future, it is apparent that developments in Poland and Polish public opinion are factors to be taken into consideration in determining American policy and that the continuation of Soviet rule in Poland need not deprive American policy and Embassy activity of all significance or flexibility.

Some comments on various aspects of Polish-American relations touched upon in recent Embassy communications are set forth below. It is hardly necessary to point out that most of these cannot be regarded as hard and fast rules applicable under all circumstances and must in the last analysis depend to a very great degree upon the Embassy’s judgment of any given situation.

VOA Broadcasts:

The Department is opposed to “softening” the content or tone of VOA broadcasts to Poland in the hope that the Polish Government might reduce or abandon jamming. Presumably the Polish authorities would not sanction so extreme a measure unless VOA programs were drastically altered and such a change would be exceedingly difficult to explain or justify to Polish listeners. At the same time the Polish Government would no longer bear the onus of jamming and there would be a strong implication that similar changes were justified in all VOA as well as RFE and other Free World programs to Eastern Europe. Contrary to Communist allegations, VOA Polish language broadcasts do not indulge in simple vituperation and haranguing and they do give recognition to postwar achievements in Poland, although these are rightly attributed to the efforts and sacrifices of the Polish people rather than to those of the Communist authorities. The present VOA policy is to inform and encourage the Polish people, in vigorous, expressive and explicit language, without deliberate misrepresentation or incitement to open and fruitless resistance. Any fundamental and [Page 135] genuine liberalization of Communist controls in Poland would of course be duly praised and encouraged in VOA broadcasts. But the Department feels it would be extremely unwise to appear sensitive to Communist complaints and maneuvers against VOA, which constitute in a way the best proof of its effectiveness.

Present differences in subject matter and tone among VOA, BBC, RFE and other Free World programs appear to have little significance and are probably even desirable in that they afford the listener some selection to suit his preference. However, it would unquestionably be helpful for Moscow’s propaganda purposes if (as appears now in no way likely) BBC Polish broadcasts were sweetened to an extent which would obviate Communist jamming.

The Department is presently considering the advisability of increasing VOA Polish-language broadcast time in view of Poland’s relative importance in the Soviet system and in response to the inauguration of Warsaw’s “Radio Kraj” service.

Exchange and Dissemination of Information:

There is no reason to believe that the tremendous disparity between information available to this Government in Poland and to the Polish Government in America will be overcome or even significantly modified within the near future. Nevertheless the Department would prefer to maintain reciprocity in exchanges of information through formal channels, and the Embassy should therefore continue to refer official requests for Government publications or information of any importance to Washington, even though the Embassy will usually be the channel of ultimate distribution in Poland.

Naturally this rule need not, and should not, be applied to all official inquiries. Possibly it would have been both useful and appropriate for the Embassy to provide or promise the Polish Press Agency representative mentioned in Embassy despatch 57 of August 30, 19556 suitable general unclassified data on American economic and cultural achievements. Decisions in such cases must depend on the Embassy’s judgment of the particular situation. In general, Iron Curtain countries should not be provided with technical information or other useful data without securing some substantial quid pro quo. On the other hand, it would seem desirable to furnish whatever unclassified material is available in the Embassy including Government publications, reflecting political or economic and social progress in America. If no objection is perceived it is suggested that the Embassy resume sending American publications directly to Polish addresses (reference despatch 76).

[Page 136]

The Embassy’s despatch 161 of November 8, 19557 provided an example of what appears to be a good opportunity for useful informational activity. Possibly Polish material of some value could be obtained for the American agricultural publications and dictionary, although reciprocity in such cases would not be necessary.8

As regards private, informal requests for unclassified information, the Department feels that they should not only be fulfilled by the Embassy whenever feasible but that every appropriate opportunity should be utilized for the casual distribution of suitable reading material. The Department was pleased to note the Embassy’s work in this field as reported in despatches 186 of December 5, 19559 and 236 of January 10, 195610 and hopes that this type of distribution can gradually be expanded.

As the Embassy is aware the Polish Embassy in Washington conducts many informational and propaganda activities, including the preparation and distribution of press releases, the distribution of magazines, pamphlets and books, and the promotion of exhibits depicting Polish cultural achievements. So far as can be ascertained this propaganda work has enjoyed relatively little success in America and rather than attempting to curtail it it is hoped that it may serve as a justification, or if need be a bargaining point, for increasing similar Embassy activity in Poland.

To achieve this purpose it is believed that it would be preferable not to make a formal request of the Polish authorities to reopen a USIA office or library in Warsaw, at least at this time, but rather to increase the Embassy’s informal activities in this line under circumstances in which the Poles would find it awkward or embarrassing to protest. Perhaps it would therefore be desirable to cease referring Polish inquirers to the Polish Embassy in Washington because of the closure of Embassy informational activities in 1951.

For the Embassy’s information there is now being assembled an exhibit of some 100–150 carefully selected photographs taken in America during the last ten years. Within the near future the Polish authorities will be asked to indicate where and when the exhibit can be shown in Warsaw, Krakow and other cities. In the event permission [Page 137] is refused the Department will consider the advisability of requesting, with suitable publicity, the Polish Embassy to withdraw its exhibits from this country.

A representative of the Museum of Modern Art has recently been discussing with Soviet officials the possibility of sending an American art exhibit to Moscow this year (reference Embassy telegram 353 of December 11, 1955).11 Thus far to the Department’s knowledge no decision has been reached. It is quite possible that if the Polish Government agrees such an exhibit would be sent to Warsaw following Moscow.

Despatch 167 of November 15, 195512 reported Polish interest in showing The Living Desert, a suggestion which was properly referred to the Walt Disney Corporation in New York. The Department should be advised of any future inquiries of this nature so that it may also, if it wishes, get in touch with the American firm concerned. The Department is now discussing the general subject of American pictures behind the Curtain with the Motion Pictures Association.

It is hoped that additional films will be forthcoming from the Department of Agriculture and USIA (reference despatch 283 of February 7, 1956). It may be desirable to prepare Polish sound tracks for two or three of the most appropriate and request the Polish authorities to give them wide popular distribution rather than restricting them to official and technical circles.

It had been hoped that more success would be achieved this year than last in connection with an exhibit for the Poznan Fair. However, as the Embassy has already been informed, it has not proved possible to complete arrangements for American participation.

Exchange of Persons and Groups:

The Department hopes that any future exchanges of persons and groups will have some relevance and advantage from our point of view and not lend themselves to interpretation by Communist propaganda as indicative of relaxation of tension and further recognition of the Polish Government and the status quo. For this reason the Department would prefer to avoid exchanges on the official level and to concentrate on private individuals and small groups in the fields of culture, education, sports, etc. Obviously it will not be desirable to leave the initiative in suggesting and selecting exchanges to the Polish Government, and the possibilities of exploiting defections or Polish refusals to accept invitations should be taken into account.

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The Porgy and Bess visit to Poland appears to have served a useful purpose and the Halina Czerny-Stefanska tour in America boomeranged against Warsaw to some extent because of the protests and adverse publicity which arose when Communist propaganda linked her performances with the Mickiewicz celebrations.

The Department feels that any good effects of air force or military visits of the type suggested by the British Ambassador would be more than offset by Polish Communist propaganda exploitation designed to increase the prestige of the Warsaw regime.

Nor does the Department favor extending invitations to top ranking Polish agricultural representatives to duplicate the visit of their Soviet counterparts.

The Department has no reliable information on what plans, if any, are being made to bring the Mazowsze ensemble here.

Credits and Trade Restrictions:

The Department is opposed to granting credits to Poland at the present time and there seems to be little likelihood of a further relaxation of trade restrictions within the near future.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.48/3–2856. Secret. Drafted by Lister and approved in EE, EUR, USIA, and P.
  2. In despatch 238, Ambassador Jacobs reported on a continuing exchange of views between him and the British Ambassador in Warsaw as to the nature of Polish communism and the Polish Government. The British Ambassador, Sir Andrew Noble, held that a definite Polish policy was emerging in Warsaw, and the Western powers, particularly the United States and United Kingdom, should take advantage of the post-Geneva Conference relaxation of East-West tensions to support and encourage Warsaw’s independent policy, thus weakening Soviet domination of Poland. Ambassador Jacobs believed that encouraging the present Polish Government would mean bolstering the prestige of a regime which the United States publicly condemned. Jacobs held that the relaxation of Soviet control in Poland was only superficial; Poles still had no real freedom of action in foreign affairs. Such friendly overtures as suggested by Ambassador Noble in the fields of cultural, economic, political, information, and sports affairs, were, from Jacobs’ point of view, inadvisable at the present time. Attached to despatch 238 was a copy of Noble’s despatch to London outlining his policy suggestions. (Ibid., 641.48/1–1056)
  3. In despatch 76, Ambassador Jacobs commented on the differences of opinion between him and Ambassador Noble along the lines of despatch 238. (Ibid., 611.00/9–1255)
  4. According to despatch 238, Noble and Jacobs had their main exchange of views on Poland on December 30.
  5. In despatch 173, the Embassy referred to the view of British Labor M.P. Hugh Delargy, who had visited Poland in November 1955 to examine church–state relations, that Boleslaw Piasecki, a so-called Catholic collaborator with the Polish Government, was a courageous and formidable patriot. (Department of State, Central Files, 032/11–2255)
  6. Not printed. (Ibid., 948.62/8–3055)
  7. Not printed. (Ibid., 024.648/11–855)
  8. The Department of Agriculture states it forwarded the agricultural publications requested in despatch 161 on March 26. [Footnote in the source text.]
  9. In despatch 186, the Embassy reported it was providing American popular publications on a handout basis to persons who could make the best use of them and who would pass them on to others. (Department of State, Central Files, 511.482/12–555)
  10. In despatch 236, the Embassy requested guidance on the informal request of a Polish Foreign Ministry official for a commercial showing of a Walt Disney film. (Ibid., 511.485/11–1555)
  11. Not printed. (Ibid., 748.00/9–2856)
  12. Not printed. (Ibid., 511.485/11–1555)